Working as a personal trainer & fitness professional, there is one type of question I get all the time that shows that many people are missing the big picture regarding the benefits of strength training. This popular question usually goes something like this:
“What exercise can I do to isolate my _______ (insert your muscle of choice – abs, quads, biceps, triceps, etc)?”
It doesn’t matter which muscle someone is asking about, they always seem to be asking how to ‘isolate’ it. My first response to this question is always – “Why in the world would you want to isolate it?”
The first thing I try to teach my clients is that the body does not work well in muscle isolation. Rather, it works better in movements along a kinetic chain; that is, large portions of the body assist other portions of the body in completing a complex movement. In fact, there really is no such thing as true muscle isolation. There is almost always a nearby muscle group that will assist in some way with whatever movement you are doing. However, this article compares attempting to ‘isolate’ body parts via single-joint exercises to the much more effective strategy of performing multi-joint complex movements.
When you attempt to ‘isolate’ muscles by performing single-joint exercises, you are actually creating a body that is non-functional and will be more prone to injury. Essentially, you are creating a body that is a compilation of body parts, instead of a powerful, functional unit that works together.
Now if you really want to end up hobbling around in a body bandaged up with joint problems, tendonitis, and excess body fat, then by all means, continue trying to ‘isolate’ body parts. On the other hand, if you would rather have a lean, muscular, injury-free, functional body that works as a complete powerful unit to perform complex movements (in athletics or even everyday tasks), then you need to shift your focus away from muscle isolation.
Believe me, focusing on how well your body functions will give you the side effect of a body that looks even better than it would have if you focused on muscle isolation. For example, take a look at the physiques of any NFL running backs, wide receivers, or even world class sprinters. Trust me when I say that these guys pretty much NEVER train for muscle isolation (their strength coaches wouldn’t be crazy enough to let them), yet they are absolutely ripped to shreds! Just look at guys like Maurice Green or Terrell Owens and tell me who wouldn’t want a physique like those guys.
Another benefit to moving away from the ‘muscle isolation’ mindset in weight training to a more ‘complex movement’ mindset is that you will find it much easier to lose body fat. The reason is that by focusing more on multi-joint complex movements as opposed to single-joint muscle isolation lifts, you not only burn a lot more calories during each workout, but you also increase your metabolic rate, and stimulate production of more fat burning and muscle building hormones such as growth hormone and testosterone.
Let’s look at an example. The machine leg extension is a single joint exercise that works mainly the quadriceps, can potentially cause knee joint instability in the long run, and doesn’t even burn that many calories. On the other hand, exercises like squats, lunges, step-ups, and deadlifts are all multi-joint complex movements that work hundreds of muscles in the body (including the quadriceps) as a functional unit, create more stable and strong joints in the long run (when done properly), and also burn massive quantities of calories compared to the single-joint exercises.
Now although I do feel that multi-joint exercises should comprise the majority of your weight training workouts, I also think that there can be some benefits with just minor inclusions of single-joint exercises for variety, etc. I choose to build my training programs with about 90-95% multi-joint exercises and about 5-10% single-joint exercises at most.
If you’re interested in discovering more ways to create a body that looks as good as it functions, pick up a copy of my innovative book The Truth About Six Pack Abs
I’ll preface this article by saying that it will help if you have an open mind and accept that some of these facts are a slap in the face to politically correct nutrition in this day and age where fats are admonished by many doctors, health “experts”, and the mass media.
To start, eating an adequate supply of healthy dietary fats is vitally important to your overall health. Fats are one of the main components in all of the cell membranes throughout your entire body. If you eat enough healthy natural fats, your cellular processes will proceed normally.
On the other hand, if you eat man-made, heavily processed, chemically altered fats (damaged fats) that are found in most processed foods, your cellular function will be impaired as these damaged fats become part of your cell membranes, the body will have to work harder to operate correctly, and degenerative diseases can develop.
In addition, healthy dietary fats are necessary for optimal hormone production and balance within the body and are therefore essential for the muscle building and fat burning processes. Other important functions that dietary fats play in a healthy body are aiding vitamin and mineral utilization, enzyme regulation, energy, etc.
I cringe every time I hear so called “health experts” recommend restriction of dietary fat, claiming that a low-fat diet is the key to good health, weight loss, and prevention of degenerative diseases. Restriction of any one macronutrient (protein, carbs, or fat) in your diet works against what your body needs and can only lead to problems.
All three basic macronutrients serve important functions for a lean, healthy, and disease-free body. As Dr. Mary Enig, Ph.D, and one of the leading fats researchers in the world, notes in several of her books and articles, there is very little true scientific evidence supporting the assertion that a high fat diet is bad for us.
For example, if these so called “health experts” that admonish fat are correct, and a low-fat diet is the solution to good health, then why did traditional Pacific Islanders who typically obtained 2/3 to 3/4 of their total daily calories from fat (mostly from coconut fat), remain virtually free from heart disease, obesity, and other modern degenerative diseases (that is, until Western dietary influences invaded)?
Also, why did traditional Eskimo populations, consuming up to 75% of their total caloric intake from fat (mostly from whale blubber, seal fat, organ meats, and cold water fish), display superior health and longevity without heart disease or obesity?
Why did members of the Masai tribe in Africa remain free from degenerative diseases and maintain low body fat percentages on diets consisting of large quantities of raw whole milk, blood, and meat? What about the Samburu tribe of Africa, which eats an average of 5 times the quantity of dietary fat (mostly from raw whole milk and meat) as overweight, disease-ridden Americans, yet Samburu members are lean, healthy, and free of degenerative diseases? What about traditional Mediterranean diets, which are known to be very high in fat in some cases (sometimes up to 50-70% fat), and are also well known to be very healthy?
These examples of high fat diets and the associated excellent health of traditional populations around the world go on and on, yet it seems that many doctors, nutritionists, and media outlets still ignore these facts and continue to promote a diet that restricts fat intake.
Well, the problem is that the good fats (the natural unprocessed health promoting fats) have gotten mistakenly lumped together in nutritional advice with the deadly processed fats and oils that make up a large percentage of almost all processed food that is sold at your local grocery store, restaurant, deli, fast food joint, etc. These deadly processed fats are literally everywhere and almost impossible to avoid unless you know what to look for and make smart choices in what you feed your body with.
Take note that I’m not recommending following a super high fat diet. Active individuals that exercise on a regular basis certainly also need adequate supplies of healthy carbohydrates for energy and muscle glycogen replenishment as well as good sources of protein for muscle repair. The above examples of the high fat diets of traditional populations and their corresponding excellent health were simply to prove the point that you don’t need to be afraid of dietary fats as long as you make healthy natural choices and stay within your daily caloric range to maintain or lose weight (depending on your goals).
Following is a list of some of the healthiest fatty foods (some will surprise you!) as well as some of the deadliest fatty foods to try to avoid at all costs:
The Healthy Fatty Food Choices:
Coconut fat: Coconut fat is approximately 92% saturated fat, yet surprisingly to most people, is considered a very healthy natural fat. The health benefits of coconut fat lie in its composition of approximately 65% medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). Specifically, about 50% of coconut fat is a MCT called lauric acid, which has very potent anti-microbial properties helping to enhance the immune system. Also, MCTs are more easily utilized for immediate energy instead of being stored as body fat. Coconut oil is also an excellent cooking oil for stir-frying, etc. since saturated fats are much more stable and do not oxidize like polyunsaturated oils when exposed to heat and light, which creates damaging free radicals. The best sources of healthy coconut fat are organic coconut milk, virgin coconut oil (available at http://coconut-info.com), or fresh coconut.
Extra virgin olive oil: Olive oil is approximately 71% monounsaturated, 16% saturated, and 13% polyunsaturated. Choose “extra virgin” olive oil, which comes from the first pressing of the olives and has higher quantities of antioxidants. Unlike most other oils on supermarket shelves, extra virgin olive oil is not extracted with the use of harmful industrial solvents and is one of your healthiest choices for liquid oils. Try making your own salad dressing by mixing a small amount of olive oil with vinegar. This is healthier than most store bought salad dressings, which are usually made with highly processed and refined (chemically damaged) soybean oil extracted with industrial solvents.
Dark, bittersweet chocolate (>70% cocoa): The cocoa bean is a very concentrated source of antioxidants and responsible for part of the health benefit of dark chocolate. The fat portion of the cocoa bean (cocoa butter) is a healthy natural fat, composed of approximately 59% saturated fat (mostly healthy stearic acid), 38% monounsaturated fat, and 3% polyunsaturated fat. I’ll limit the description of healthy chocolate to ONLY dark bittersweet chocolate with >70% cocoa content. Most milk chocolates are only about 30% cocoa, and even most dark chocolates are only about 55% cocoa, leaving the remainder of those products composed of high amounts of sugar, milk fat, corn sweeteners, etc. Look for a quality dark chocolate that lists its cocoa content like Chocolove Extra Dark (77%) or Dagoba New Moon (74%), which contain mostly cocoa and very little sugar. Keep in mind that although dark chocolate can be a healthy treat, it is still calorie dense, so keeping it to just a square or two is a good idea.
Avocados or guacamole: The fat in avocados (depending on where they’re grown) is approximately 60% monounsaturated, 25% saturated, and 15% polyunsaturated. Avocados are a very healthy natural food that provides many nutrients, fiber, and healthful fats, while adding a rich flavor to any meal. Try sliced avocado on sandwiches or in salads or use guacamole in wraps, sandwiches, or quesadillas.
High fat fish such as wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, trout, etc.: Just about any fish or seafood are good sources of natural omega-3 polyunsaturated fats, but the higher fat fish listed above are the best sources of omega-3’s. Due to the radical switch to a higher proportion of omega-6 polyunsaturated fats like soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, etc. in our food supply during the middle of the 20th century, the average western diet is currently way too high in omega-6’s compared to omega-3’s, which wreaks havoc in your body. This is where good omega-3 sources like high fat fish, walnuts, and flax seeds can help bring you back to a better ratio of omega-6/omega-3.
Nuts (any and all – walnuts, almonds, peanuts, cashews, macadamias, etc.): Nuts are great sources of healthy unprocessed fats as well as minerals and other trace nutrients. Macadamias, almonds, and cashews are great sources of monounsaturated fats, while walnuts are a good source of unprocessed polyunsaturated fats (including omega-3’s). Try to avoid nuts that are cooked in oil. Instead, choose raw or dry roasted nuts.
Seeds (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds): All of these seeds are great sources of natural unprocessed healthy fats. In particular, flax seeds have received a lot of attention lately due to their high omega-3 content. However, keep in mind that omega-3 polyunsaturated fats are highly reactive to heat and light, and prone to oxidation and free radical production. Therefore, freshly ground flax seed is the only way to go. Instead of using the store bought ground flax seed, you can buy whole flax seed and use one of those miniature coffee grinders to grind your own flax seed. Try grinding fresh flax seed into your yogurt, cereal, or even your salad. If you’re using a flax oil, make sure it’s a cold-pressed oil in a light-proof refrigerated container, and use it up within a few weeks to prevent it from going rancid. NEVER cook with flax oil!
The fat in organically raised, free-range animals: This is where most people have been misinformed by the mass media. Animal fat is inherently good for us, that is, if it came from a healthy animal. Human beings have thrived on animal fats for thousands of years. The problem is, most mass produced animal products today do not come from healthy animals. They come from animals given loads of antibiotics and fattened up with hormones and fed un-natural feed. The solution is to choose organically raised, free-range meats, eggs, and dairy. At this time, the price is still a little higher, but as demand grows, the prices will come down. I’ve found an incredible website that actually offers free-range grass-fed meats delivered right to your doorstep at very reasonable prices. Believe me, it’s very hard to find grass fed meats at any grocery stores, so I was pleased to find this site.
The Deadly Fatty Foods:
Hydrogenated oils (trans fats): These are industrially produced chemically altered oils subjected to extremely high pressure and temperature, with added industrial solvents such as hexane for extraction, and have a metal catalyst added to promote the artificial hydrogenation, followed by bleaching and deodorizing agents…..and somehow the FDA still allows this crap to pass as food. These oils aren’t even worthy of your lawnmower, much less your body! They’ve been linked to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and more. Even small quantities have been shown in studies to be dangerous. If you care about your health, check the ingredients of everything you buy, and if you see partially hydrogenated oils of any kind, margarine, or shortening, protect yourself and your family by choosing something else.
Refined oils: Even if the oils are not hydrogenated, most oils on your supermarket shelves are refined, even most of the so called “healthy” canola oils. Most refined oils still undergo the high temperature, high pressure, solvent extraction, bleaching, and deodorizing processes. Anything labeled vegetable oil, soybean oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, safflower oil, and even many canola oils have been damaged by this refining process (unless they say “virgin” or “cold expeller pressed”). This damages the natural structure of the fats, destroys natural antioxidants, creates free radicals, and produces a generally unhealthy product. Take note that the explosion of heart disease in the middle of the 20th century coincides quite nicely with the rapid increase in the use of hydrogenated and refined oils in the food supply.
Anything deep fried: including tortilla chips, potato chips, French fries, donuts, fried chicken, chicken nuggets, etc. All of this crap shouldn’t even pass as real food in my opinion!
Homogenized milk fat – Milk fat is a very healthy fat in its natural raw state. Milk and beef from grass fed organically raised cows is known to have higher quantities of healthy fats like conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and omega-3 fatty acids compared with grain fed cows. Traditional populations around the world have thrived in perfect health while consuming huge quantities of raw, non-pasteurized, non-homogenized, full fat dairy products. Once again, food processing ruins a good thing by pasteurizing and homogenizing milk fat, rendering it potentially dangerous inside the human body. Unfortunately, you will find it almost impossible to find raw milk in the US unless you personally know a farmer. Check out http://www.realmilk.com for more info on the benefits of raw milk and to find out if it’s available near you. As an alternative, cultured dairy products like yogurt have at least had beneficial microorganisms added back to them making them better for you. Realistically, since you probably won’t find raw milk, sticking to skim milk is the best option to avoid the homogenized milk fat. If you use butter for cooking, your best option is grass-fed butter.
I hope this article has shed some light on the truth about dietary fats and made you realize their importance in a healthy diet.
A fully comprehensive analysis on dietary protein, carbohydrates, and fat, and how to compile all of this information into a diet that promotes a lean healthy body with a low body fat percentage is provided in my book “The Truth About Six Pack Abs”. Give it a try and you won’t be disappointed!
I had the pleasure of being interviewed recently by a fitness professional from NYC, Certified Personal Trainer, Geovanni Derice. The interview is below and I think you’re going to like it… I reveal some of the hardest hitting strategies for getting rid of that stubborn stomach fat to uncover those flat six pack abs that everyone wants.
“GD: Welcome Mike to our 4-ever-Toned Fitness Journal. For those who do not know you, please tell us a few things about yourself and how you can help our readers with their fitness and health.
MG: Thanks for having me, Geo. Well, to go back a little, I have been heavily involved in fitness and sports for about 17 years now, ever since I was a teenager. Being involved in sports in high school got me interested in strength training and conditioning.
At that point, once I started feeling more energetic, getting stronger, and looking better, I was instantly hooked for life. I’m 33 now and still addicted to the way living a healthy and fit lifestyle makes me feel energetic, confident, strong, and youthful on a daily basis.
I decided earlier in my 20’s that I wanted to make the commitment to help other people experience the excitement of being fit and getting in the best shape of their lives, especially since we’ve reached an epidemic of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, depression, etc. That’s why I became a fitness professional. It just gives me so much satisfaction to help others, who have struggled for years to get in good shape, and show them that it can be done, and it can be fun in the process.
I’ve expanded over the years from just reaching local individuals with personal training, into being able to help people all over the globe achieve their fitness goals with the reach of the internet. I only hope that my passion for fitness inspires people to take action and improve how they look and feel for life.
GD: Now Mike, there’s so many things out there as to what works and what does not work… if you had to pick 3 things that work time and time again to get flat lean abs, what would they be?
MG: The first and most important thing to get control of in order to lose your belly fat and get flat abs is cleaning up your diet. Exercise is important, but your diet is king when it comes to losing body fat so that you can see your abs.
There’s so much confusion these days about what a healthy diet that promotes fat loss really is… after all, we are bombarded by conflicting messages in the media about what is healthy and what is not, and you have all of these gimmicky diet books about low carb, low fat, high protein, vegetarian, fasting, atkins, south beach, liquid diets, and hundreds more. There’s so much conflicting info, that the average consumer doesn’t even know where to start when it comes to eating for fat loss.
The second thing that works time and time again, is to focus on the intensity of your workouts and focus on working the body as a whole in order to get the best metabolic response to lose that stubborn stomach fat.
In order to really get lean, the workouts should have a high intensity, with short rest periods, working the largest muscle groups of the body, instead of trying to isolate specific small muscles like the biceps, triceps, or calves.
For the third thing, let’s talk about actually training the abs specifically. When it comes to training the abs, if you want real results, I always recommend forgetting about the crunches and situps for the most part. They are ok for someone that is really deconditioned, but most people that already have some training under their belt need a much better stimulus for their abs than crunches. Crunches are one of the abs exercises that actually provide the least amount of resistance, and remember that resistance is what develops and tones the muscles.
I provide a ton of great abs exercises in my book, but one of THE highest resistance exercises for the abs, is hanging leg raises (but NOT the way you see most people at the gym doing them). The key to doing these and actually working the hell out of your abs is to curl your pelvis up as you raise your legs. Almost nobody ever does this right. To be honest, the majority of people cannot do this at first, but I provide some strategies in my book as to how to progress to doing these correctly.
GD: What are people doing wrong when it comes to developing the coveted “6 pack abs”?
MG: Well Geo, I know this sounds funny to most people, but the MAIN thing that people are doing wrong to get those flat 6-pack abs is… are you ready for this?
They spend entirely too much time focusing on training their abs! WAY too much time spent on abs exercises. Sounds crazy, but it’s true.
Remember, having a flat and visible six pack of abs is all about getting down to a low body fat percentage. In order to do that, your workouts must focus on stimulating a fat burning hormonal environment in your body, and increasing your metabolic rate. That just does not happen when you focus too much time training a small muscle group like the abs.
Instead, you must use the majority of your time focusing on training the largest muscle groups of the body like the legs, back, and chest. That’s what stimulates your metabolism and the fat burning hormones that will get you truly lean and sporting a flat sixxer!
GD: Which exercises are the top exercises that people need to do if they are to get maximum defintion with their midsection?
MG: When it comes to developing the abs themselves, I again refer to any kinds of hanging abs exercises, as well as some good floor abs exercises like lying leg thrusts (all described and illustrated in my book).
However, maximum definition in the abs and midsection comes from losing bodyfat, and the most effective exercises featured in my program for that goal are various forms of swings and snatches (unique dumbbell or kettlebell exercises that almost nobody ever does in normal gyms), squats, deadlifts, lunges, step-ups, clean & presses, mountain climbers, sprinting, and other full body exercises and calisthenics. If you want great looking flat abs, focus on those instead of focusing so much on training the abs directly!
GD: When it comes to diet Mike, people really have tried millions of ways to get one thing… and that is fat loss. What recommendations have you used to successfully help your clients lose body fat and keep it off?
MG: I have included a fully comprehensive discussion of this topic in my book, which accounts for almost half of the book, but I’ll try to make some nice simple generalizations to get people started on the right path immediately. The most important thing is that your diet is as natural and unprocessed as possible. It almost always comes back to the overprocessing of food that makes it unhealthy, and makes it totally wreck your metabolism and hormone balance in your body.
For example, why eat refined grains, when you can eat whole grains (even better are sprouted grains, as I usually recommend limiting grain foods overall for best results).
Why eat refined sugar, when you can get natural sources of sugar from a high nutrient whole food like fruit. Why eat highly processed, refined, and hydrogenated vegetable oils (these are THE worst thing in the modern diet), when you can eat natural sources of healthy fats like nuts, avocados, fish, eggs, coconut milk, organically raised meat, and so forth.
The point is to not fall for some gimmick like extremely low carbs (although I do believe in a fairly reduced carb intake as that is a big problem for most people), low fat, super high protein, or any other combination that has you focusing on one macronutrient vs. another.
Your body needs all macronutrients to thrive and obtain a variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc. Trying to cut an entire food group out just works against what your body needs. I get into much more detail on this vitally important topic towards losing body fat (especially that stubborn stomach fat) for life in my book.
GD: Thank you very much Mike for sharing with us all of this great information.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this interview and plucked several nuggets of info to get you motivated and started on showing off your flat abs shortly. If you don’t already own a copy, be sure to pick up a copy of my Truth about Six Pack Abs book and discover the entire system I’ve developed for ridding yourself of that extra ab fat for good!
If you’ve been looking for a different training technique to break out of a rut, eliminate the boredom, and bring on new results, “complexes” may be just what you’ve been looking for.
If you’ve never heard of “complexes” before, the basic concept is that instead of repeating the same exercise for multiple reps to complete a “set”, you sequence one rep of several different exercises right after one another and repeat the sequence several times to complete a “set”. It’s basically like performing a routine, instead of just mindlessly performing a typical “set”.
This type of training is excellent to work a huge amount of musculature in a short amount of time, and definitely takes your workouts to a whole new level of intensity. The conditioning aspect of this type of training is amazing, as you’ll find yourself huffing and puffing after repeating a sequence a mere two or three times.
If I had to venture a guess, I’d have to say that this type of training probably elicits a good growth hormone response as well, due to the large amount of full body work completed in a given time period. But that’s just my guess.
I like to incorporate about 5 exercises into my complexes. Any more than that and you might start to forget what’s next in the sequence. Here’s an example of a killer barbell complex that really gets me fired up:
Example Barbell Complex
high pull from floor (explosive deadlift right into upright row in one motion);
barbell back to thighs, then hang clean (explosively pull bar from knees and “catch” the bar at shoulders);
barbell back to floor, then clean & jerk;
barbell back to thighs, bend over, then bent over row;
barbell back to thighs, then finish with Romanian deadlift
Use a weight that you can still handle for your weakest lift of the bunch, but keep it heavy enough to challenge you. Try to repeat the sequence 2-3 times without resting… That’s 1 set. You could progress over time on this routine by increasing the amount of times you repeat the sequence in each set, or by adding sets on subsequent workouts before eventually increasing the weight.
For example, say you completed the above complex with 155-lbs for 3 sequences per set for 3 sets in today’s workout. Next time you perform the workout, try to do 155-lbs for 3 sequences per set for 4 sets. Once you successfully complete 5 sets with 155, increase the weight 5 or 10 lbs next time, and drop back to 3 sets. This is a great way to make improvements over time, while cycling your training volume.
Now I’m going to show you a great kettlebell complex that really kicks my butt. If you don’t have a kettlebell, you can use a dumbbell, but I’d highly recommend picking yourself up a kettlebell… very convenient to have around when you want to bang out a quick intense workout at home without going to the gym.
I’ve been training with kettlebells for a little over a year now, and can definitely say that they’ve dramatically improved my strength, body composition, and overall physical capabilities. If you’re not familiar with kettlebells, they are an old eastern European training secret that has just started to take the US by storm over the last few years. Many elite athletes are using kettlebells as their preferred training tool for serious results.
I’d recommend just starting off with one bell and learn all of the single kettlebell drills first, before delving into the double-bell drills. Just one kettlebell coupled with some bodyweight exercises can literally be enough to comprise your own home gym, without any other equipment necessary. Or a kettlebell can just be a great alternative workout to incorporate into your routines once or twice a week. Either way, it opens up a whole new world of training for you.
Example Kettlebell Complex
one arm swing
one arm snatch, keep the bell over head;
one arm overhead squat;
bell back down to bottom, then one arm high pull;
bell back down to bottom, then one arm clean & press
As with the barbell complex, repeat the sequence (without rest) 2-3 times with each arm. That’s one set…and one hell of a killer set at that! Try increasing from 3 to 4 to 5 sets on subsequent workouts with a given weight before increasing your sequence reps. If you’re not drenched in sweat with your heart beating out of your chest after that complex, you either went too light, or you are a mutant freak!
Since dumbbells are more accessible to most people than kettlebells, now I’ll show you how to put together a good dumbbell complex.
Example Dumbbell Complex
upright row with each arm separately then both together
front lunge with one leg, then the other
back lunge with one leg, then the other
curl to overhead press
keep dumbbells at shoulders and squat
Again, the same type of sequencing and progressions explained with the barbell complexes work great with the dumbbell complexes. I think a great strategy is to alternate barbell complexes on one day with kettlebell or dumbbell complexes on alternative training days.
For example, you could do barbell complexes Monday, K-bell or D-bell complexes Wednesday, and back to barbell complexes on Friday. Maybe hit some sprints and bodyweight drills on Saturday; then Monday would be K-bell or D-bell complexes again, Wednesday would be barbells again, and so on. Give this program a try for a month (if you dare), and you will be one hardened individual!
For more killer full body training routines and a fully comprehensive nutritional analysis for developing the lean chiseled body that you’ve always wanted, don’t miss out on my internationally best selling program with over 250,000 users in over 155 countries — The Truth about Six Pack Abs.
Overlooked Secrets to Building Rock Hard Six-Pack Abs
Overlooked Secrets to Building Rock Hard Six-Pack Abs
By John Leotardo
If you’re like many people out there who want to lose their belly fat and gain those amazing looking six-pack abs, then there are some things you should know before you begin your journey. Neither diet or exercise alone will help you achieve your goals. You will need to incorporate a combination of both in order to keep the fat off and the muscle showing!
People who do hundreds of sit-ups or crunches per week are often stumped as to why they are not getting any results. The answer is simple; you absolutely cannot spot reduce fat on your body! Just because you are targeting your abdominal muscles with exercises doesn’t mean you will reduce any amount of fat there. You can build up muscle anywhere on your body at any time, but if there is a layer of fat covering it, you’ll never even see it. The key to getting those new muscles to show is to lose fat all throughout the body. Cardio, such as jogging, is probably one of the most effective and easy ways to lower your overall body fat.
Since muscle burns the most amount of calories, increasing the general muscle mass of your body through weight training will help to speed your metabolism up and help you burn fat, even while you are sleeping. You don’t need to lift 100 or 200 pound weights to achieve this, either. Start small, but keep a consistent schedule and you will soon notice that your body fat is slowly being replace by lean muscle. Before long, you’ll see that crunches and sit-ups will actually start to produce results because you have lowered your overall body fat.
If you are interested in learning more secrets about getting rock hard abdominals, then check out the truth about abs. This site has sections for both men and women, so anyone seeking the truth on how to get that awesome six-pack can get started right away. Get more info by visiting http://www.ab-truth.info. Check it out today!
Top Ab Workout Routines – Have You Tried These 3 Killer Ab Exercises Before?
Top Ab Workout Routines – Have You Tried These 3 Killer Ab Exercises Before?
By Mike Singh
Nowadays, the variety of workout routines to achieve the ever-desirable six-pack abs are a dime a dozen. You will be hard-pressed to choose the one that best suits your exercise goals, present lifestyle and physical condition. Out of the numerous workout routines available in the fitness industry today, the following three stand out for their ease of use and superior results.
This routine addresses more abdominal muscles and targets them harder than the next two ab workouts. It requires working out 4 days a week for 6 straight weeks, which will then be followed by a break for 1 full week.
First day – Jog for 20 minutes followed by 10-15 oblique crunches. Take a 1-minute break then do twists either with weights or with a medicine ball while in a sitting position. These movements constitute one set, which should be repeated 3 more times and then cool down with a 5-minute light jog.
Second day – Jog for 45 minutes, followed with 3 sets of reverse crunches and 3 sets of leg lifts. Make sure to take a break in between sets.
Third day – Jog for just 10 minutes and stop.
Fourth day – Jog for 30 minutes, then standing oblique raises using weights for 3 sets, and end with 3 sets of sit-ups with oblique crunches lying on your side. Perform this set two more time and then cool down with a light jog.
This involves working out just 3 days a week. You will focus on your upper abdominal muscles and obliques on the first and fifth days while the lower abdominal muscles are targeted on the third day of the week. In many ways, this routine is similar to the following routine (Number 3) except that the upper abdomen and oblique exercises are now combined during the first and fifth days of the week, thus, the higher level of intensity.
This ab workout routine demands 5 days in a week for 6 straight weeks, which should then be followed by a full week break before resumption of the exercises.
First day – Warm up for 5 minutes and followed by leg lift crunches for as many as you possibly can. Remember to rest for 2 minutes when you get tired and then resume. Cool down for another 5 minutes.
Second day – A 5-minute warm up is followed by 3 sets of oblique crunches lying on your side and 3 sets of standing oblique raises with weights. Again, cool down.
Third day – Rest period
Fourth day – Warm up for 5 minutes, perform 3 sets each of reverse crunches and leg lifts.
Fifth day – Just repeat the exercises on the first and second days.
Many times, you just want to stay at home to exercise instead of braving the inclement weather as well as the cacophony of sounds and smells of the gym. Bu then, you worry that without your fitness trainer and the exercise equipment available in the gym, you might be neglecting your abdominal workouts and trudge to the venue anyway.
Well, good news because you can actually perform your abdominal exercises in the comfort of your own home. You just need to take into account the following tips to make it as successful as when you are in the gym with its instructors and equipment.
Set Realistic Goals
This is true no matter if you are in the home or in the gym. Setting realistic goals is necessary so that you will be more motivated to pursue your goals when you have achieved initial successes. Plus, you will know your progress and plan based on it. You can set realistic goals with the help of a fitness instructor. You will be able to secure assistance in assessing your present physical condition and your exercise goals, which should be as coordinated a possible to ensure better success.
Use Your Bodyweight
You need not purchase the numerous ab exercise equipment littering the fitness market today. You will only be wasting your money in many instances as you can always use your bodyweight and other common household items in the house to develop your abs. For example, reverse crunches, leg raises, knee ups, knee raises and bicycle exercises only require a firm surface, even the floor, to execute them. This is where the fitness instructor can also help you with in terms of teaching you how to properly execute the movements for maximum results and minimum injuries. Of course, you can browse the Internet for instructional videos and other possible exercises.
Choose Your Exercises Carefully
You should not immediately adopt any of the exercises you see over the Internet. Again, you have to assess your physical condition as there are ab exercises that are not suitable for some people. Thus, you must consult with your doctor or fitness instructor. Keep in mind that the main goal is to develop your abs but avoid injuries to your joints and muscles at any time of the ab workouts.
Mix It Up
To ward off boredom, which will inevitably come no matter how addicted you are to exercise, you should mix up your routines. Again, surf the Internet on the many variations of your old ab exercises as well as new totally new exercises. This way, you are being constantly challenged in mind and body. This has the added advantage of actually making your routines fun instead of becoming torture.
Focus on Diet and Lifestyle
And of course, ab exercises are insufficient to achieve and maintain your six-pack abs. You have to adopt a healthy diet along with healthy lifestyle habits. Indeed, ripped abs is only possible if and when the rest of your body is healthy.
In this article, I have an intriguing discussion about cardio workouts, which will hopefully get you thinking differently, and trying new things.
You may know I’ve been called the anti-cardio guy before, but this week I’m back posing the question to you… Do you really need cardio training to get lean and in great shape? By the way, you’ll see in a minute that I’m not really “anti-cardio”, just “anti traditional cardio”.
Most fitness buffs, weekend warriors, or anyone trying to get in shape or lose body fat, consider it a fact that they need “cardio” exercise to accomplish these goals. They would never even question it.
However, I’m not only questioning it, I’m going to refute it! In fact, you may be surprised to know that some of the leanest and meanest people I know (men and women), NEVER do any type of normal or traditional cardio. And I’ve spent over 15 years working out in various gyms, and hanging out with athletes of all sorts, so I’ve seen it all.
I will say that there can be a place for low-moderate level cardio for really overweight or deconditioned people, but even in those cases, there can be more effective methods.
But what exactly is “cardio”?
Most people would consider cardio to be pumping away mindlessly on a treadmill, riding a stationary bike, or coasting on an elliptical machine, while watching the TV screen at their state of the art gym. This is what I call “traditional cardio”. Hmmm, no wonder the majority of people get bored with their workouts and give up after a couple months without seeing results.
But if you look closer, “cardio” exercise can be considered any type of exercise or activity that strengthens the cardiovascular system. I’m not going to get into anything technical like increasing your VO2 max or anything like that. To keep it simple, if it gets your heart pumpin, and gets you huffin and puffin, it’s cardio. I don’t care if you’re holding dumbbells or a barbell and everyone calls it a weight training exercise…it’s still conditioning your heart.
Let’s take a look at a couple examples. Take a barbell (or dumbbell, or kettlebell) clean & press for example, which involves lifting a barbell from the floor up to shoulders, then push pressing overhead. And listen up ladies, because even though this is usually seen as a manly exercise, it doesn’t matter if you’re not lifting 250 lbs; if 45 lbs is challenging to you, then you will still benefit just as much.
At first glance, most people think of the barbell C&P only as a weight training exercise or strength exercise. However, I challenge you to do a hard set of around 10-15 reps on the C&P. If you used a challenging enough weight, what you’ll find is that your heart rate is probably up to about 80-90% of your recommended max, and you are huffing and puffing like you just ran a 100-meter sprint (which by the way, sprinting kicks the crap out of jogging any day if you want the easiest way to lose the flab).
Try the same thing for a set of 20 reps of one-arm snatches or swings with each arm with a kettlebell or dumbbell, and tell me your legs aren’t burning, heart racing, and you’re gasping for breath. How about trying 5 minutes straight of bodyweight squats, lunges, and pushups with very little rest. Again, notice your heart pounding, sweat pouring off of you, and chest heaving for breaths!
Try and tell me you’re not conditioning your heart with this style of training! Conventional thinking says that these are weight training or strength training exercises. However, they are fullfilling your cardio workout needs as well (saving you time!).
Not only do you save time, but you strengthen and condition almost every muscle in your entire body with these full body exercises if you do them with enough intensity…something that can’t be said for that boring stationary bike ride or treadmill jaunt while reading or watching TV.
Reading or watching TV while you workout is a joke!
Seriously, if you can read or watch TV while doing any exercise, you’re not concentrating enough on what you’re doing, plus you’re probably not working out hard enough to see any real results.
I challenge you to give the “traditional cardio” a rest for a month or two, and start training the way I explain in my internationally-selling Truth about Six pack Abs Program, and see how you start getting leaner, more defined, and your six pack starting to show through what used to be stubborn stomach fat deposits.
If you’re interested in more reading about the topic of cardio training and better alternatives, here’s an interesting cardio article I wrote previously.
I’ve written many times in the last couple years about the mistaken beliefs in society about saturated fat and the false perception in the media AND with MOST health professionals that saturated fat is bad for you.
If you’ve seen in some of my articles, I’ve even showed you why saturated fat can even be GOOD for you in some cases, despite every health/fitness professional in the world just accepting the false belief that it’s bad for you.
Note – I’m NOT saying that an “Atkins style” diet is good for you! Atkins is NOT a healthy or balanced way to eat! Atkins typically promotes processed meats full of nitrates, nitrites, excess salt, and imbalanced omega-6 to omega-3 ratios (since most grocery store meats are grain fed and not raised in a healthy manner). Also, Atkins plans typically have a lack of many other important food groups, nutrients, and antioxidants.
Rather, what you’ll see in this article, is that saturated fat is a perfectly natural part of the human diet and has been for eternity… it is NOT the evil demon it has been made out to be!
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised to FINALLY see a big name publisher have some guts to publish an article about why everyone in the world may be wrong about their beliefs about saturated fat.
I picked up a new issue of Men’s Health magazine over the weekend, and they have a huge 6-page article in there about the faulty research in the past about saturated fat, and some new emerging research that is showing why it may actually be more good for you than you would believe.
I’ve got to give them credit… the article was VERY well researched and put together beautifully to summarize where the studies in the past have gone wrong, and why recent studies are showing that everyone may have been wrong for the last 5 decades about saturated fat.
I’d highly suggest you read the entire article if you can. If not, I’m going to try to give you a quick summary of the findings here since it was a long article…
The “Fact” that saturated fat is bad for your health has never been proven by legitimate studies
First of all, did you realize that although doctors, nutritionists, fitness professionals, and the media all have told you that it’s a FACT that saturated fats are bad for you, this “FACT” has actually never been proven!
It’s actually not a “fact” at all. It was a hypothesis! This goes all the way back to a flawed research study from the 1950’s where a guy named Ancel Keys published a paper that laid the blame on dietary fat intake for the increasing heart disease phenomenon.
However, there were major flaws to his study. For one, in his conclusions he only used data from a small portion of the countries where data was available on fat consumption vs heart disease death rate. When researches have gone back in and looked at the data from all of the countries, there actually was no link between fat consumption and heart disease deaths. So his conclusions were actually false.
Second, his blaming of fat intake for heart disease was only one factor that was considered. There was no consideration of other factors such as smoking rates, stress factors, sugar intake, exercise frequency, or other lifestyle factors.
Basically, his conclusions which blamed heart disease deaths on fat intake were really just a shot in the dark about what a possible cause may have been, even though all of those other factors I just mentioned, plus many others, may be the bigger cause.
Unfortunately, Keys study has been cited for over 5 decades now as “fact” that saturated fat is bad for you. As you can see, there certainly is nothing factual about it.
Since that time, numerous other studies have been conducted trying to link saturated fat intake to heart disease. The majority of these studies have failed to correlate ANY risk at all from saturated fat. A couple of them made feeble attempts at linking saturated fat to heart disease, however, it was later shown that in those studies, the data was flawed as well.
Another issue with flawed studies is that many studies have lumped artificial trans fat intake together with saturated fat intake, and mistakenly laid the blame on saturated fat despite the overwhelming evidence that artificial trans fat is the REAL health risk. This is a HUGE mistake as there is a vast difference in how your body processes nasty artificially created trans fats vs the perfectly natural saturated fats that have been part of the human diet since the beginning of man.
Do we actually have evidence that saturated fat may actually be good for you instead?
Did you know that there are several well known tribes in Africa… the Masai, Samburu, and Fulani tribes… where their diet consists mostly of raw (unpasteurized) whole milk, tons of red meat, and cows blood? The typical members of these tribes eat 5x the average amount of saturated fat compared to overweight, disease-ridden Americans.
Despite their very high saturated fat intake, they display extremely low body fat levels, and heart disease to natives of the tribe is virtually non-existant.
Now most critics of this example will say that it must be related to superior genetics… however this is false, as when they studied tribesman who had moved out of their native lands and started eating more modern day diets, their blood chemistry skyrocketed with heart disease risk factors.
This is true of certain pacific island countries inhabitants as well. Several studies have shown that certain pacific island nations had VERY high intakes of total fat as well as saturated fat from tropical fats such as palm, coconut, and cocoa. Tropical plants in general have naturally higher levels of saturated fats in their tissues due to the warmer climate.
Despite super-high intakes of saturated fat, these island natives were typically very lean and heart disease was virtually non-existant. However, when researchers followed up with islanders that had moved away from their native island and adopted a typical western diet, the heart disease risk factors were through the roof. Hmm, once again, another example of people that started eating LESS saturated fat and more processed western foods and INCREASED their heart disease factors.
In fact, did you know that although saturated fat intake does increase your LDL bad cholesterol, it actually increases your HDL good cholesterol even further, hence improving your overall cholesterol ratio, which has been proven to be more important that just total cholesterol level (actually total cholesterol is an almost useless number… inflammation is the REAL problem, but that’s a whole different topic).
Another fact worth noting in favor of saturated fat…
Saturated fat is comprised of various different types… the 3 most common types are stearic acid, palmitic acid, and lauric acid.
Stearic acid is found in animal fat and cocoa in higher levels. Research continues to show that stearic acid has no negative impacts on heart disease risks. If anything, it’s either neutral or beneficial. In fact, your liver breaks down stearic acid into a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid, which is the same type of fat that makes up most of heart-healthy olive oil. Bet you didn’t know that!
Lauric acid is beneficial as well. Not only has it been shown to increase your HDL good cholesterol levels significantly, but it is also lacking in most Americans diet and has even been shown to have some powerful immune-boosting effects potentially. It is even being studied currently in HIV/AIDS research to help improve immune function in patients.
Tropical oils such as coconut and palm are the best sources of the healthy saturated fat – lauric acid.
Palmitic acid is the other main component of saturated fat and has also been shown to increase HDL good cholesterol to the same, if not greater extent than LDL bad cholesterol, thereby making it either neutral or beneficial, but certainly not bad for you.
So, if all of these researchers have tried so hard over the years to point the finger at saturated fat, but have continued to fail to show a correlation between saturated fat and heart disease risk, what are the REAL culprits for heart disease?
Well, here are the REAL causes of heart disease risk:
Trans fats (artificially hydrogenated oils)
Heavily refined vegetable oils such as soy, cottonseed, corn oil, etc. (inflammatory inside the body, and typically throw the omega-6/omega-3 balance out of whack…remember, inflammation is the REAL cause of heart disease, NOT dietary saturated fat or cholesterol).
Too much refined sugar in the diet (including high fructose corn syrup)
Too much refined carbohydrates such as white bread, low fiber cereals, etc
Lack of exercise
Other lifestyle factors
So why does it seem that so many attempts over the years have tried to lay the blame on saturated fat… do you think it might have anything to do with the muli-billion dollar vegetable oil industry, which has taken over for cooking oils for what used to be mostly animal fats and tropical oils in decades past…
hmm… do multi-billion dollar industries really have an influence on the way data is portrayed to the public? Of course they do! And don’t even get me started on the cholesterol meds industry! Again, I digress.
I’d like to start a little discussion today about carbohydrates… and in particular, “white foods” as well as potatoes. One reason I wanted to mention this is because so many health and fitness professionals trash talk potatoes about being a bad carbohydrate choice because of the high glycemic index. Some even say such ridiculous things as “avoid any and all white carbohydrates”.
Ok, now while I certainly agree that white bread and refined white sugar are two of the worst things we can be feeding our bodies, I definately don’t agree with avoiding any and all “white carbohydrates”. Now I know all of the buzz lately has been about colorful foods and the protective antioxidants that they contain. They tell you to focus on colors and stay away from white.
“White Foods” aren’t necessarily always the enemy
It’s true that colorful foods are great, but it is a big mistake to specifically avoid white foods! There are plenty of white foods that have specific nutrients that are hard to find elsewhere. Let’s look at a few examples…
Onions & Garlic
What about onions and garlic? They are both white and they are chock full of protective phytonutrients, vitamins, and trace minerals that aren’t easy to find elsewhere in a normal diet… such nutrients as allicin, quercetin (an important flavonoid), chromium, and other unique anti-inflammatory nutrients.
Another example of something white that is great for you is cauliflower. Cauliflower is loaded with vitamin C, fiber, minerals, and special compounds such as glucosinolates and thiocyanates, which are specifically abundant in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. And a little-known fact is that some of the compounds in cruciferous vegetables help to combat other estrogenic compounds in our food supply and environment and can help prevent excess belly fat. So eat up on that cauliflower!
Not many people realize this, but surprisingly, even white mushrooms have high levels of unique nutrients and antioxidants. White mushrooms are high in a couple types of antioxidants called polyphenols and ergothioneine.
Now that also leads us to another example – white potatoes (which by the way, can also be found in red, yellow, purple varieties, etc). Many health professionals claim that potatoes are a bad carbohydrate because they are thought to have a high glycemic index. First of all, if you’ve read my Truth about Six Pack Abs book, then you understand that glycemic index is not necessarily the most important factor in choosing your carbohydrates.
While a generalization can be made that most low glycemic index carbohydrate choices will help you lose body fat easier than high glycemic index choices, it is not all that it’s cracked up to be. There are many other factors that determine how your body will react-to and process the carbohydrates you ingest, such as glycemic load and also how you combine the high GI food with other foods.
For example, using glycemic load as an example… it is known that watermelon has a high glycemic index. However, the glycemic load of a normal serving of watermelon is just way too low for your body to start packing on body fat just because you ate a high glycemic index fruit. You would have to eat such an enormous quantity of watermelon just to get enough grams of carbohydrates to have any negative glycemic effect, that it is just non-sensical.
Not to mention that watermelon is also a great source of vitamins, minerals, and lycopene. There’s just no reason to avoid it simply because it has a high GI. My point is… candy bars, cupcakes, and donuts make you fat… NOT watermelons, carrots or potatoes… French fries excluded of course.
Also, as i mentioned, food combinations are important in how your body processes the carbohydrates and the associated blood sugar and insulin response you receive. For example, if you mix a high glycemic index carbohydrate with an extra source of fiber, healthy fats, or even certain proteins, many times the blood sugar and glycemic response will be slowed down considerably by the way you combined the food. Again, I talk in detail about this entire topic in my Truth about Six Pack Abs book
Alright, so back to my point that white potatoes are actually a healthy carbohydrate as long as you eat them in the right form… with the entire skin, and please don’t ruin them by deep frying them into french fries either! French fries are one of the most evil things ever invented for your health, but only because we ruin them by soaking them in a scorching bath of trans fats in the deep fryer from the hydrogenated oils that are typically used.
Keep in mind that potatoes contain so many vitamins and minerals that the list is way too long to even try. Also, as long as you eat the skins, you get a decent shot of fiber too.
Will 7-9 potatoes per day make you fatter?
On the topic of potatoes not being so bad after all, I don’t remember where I saw this referenced, but I recently saw a particular study that had participants eat something like 7-9 whole potatoes per day for several weeks.
At the conclusion of the study, the potato eaters had actually consistently lost weight! I’d venture a guess that the reason the people lost weight is that they were probably so full from eating all of those damn potatoes, that they actually consumed less calories than normal! An average sized potato only has about 100-120 calories, and I can surely imagine you’d be full constantly from eating 7-9 potatoes each day.
Now I would never recommend going to those extremes, but my point is that an occasional potato is not going to hurt your efforts to get lean, especially if you combine it with some other fibrous vegetables and maybe a healthy fat and some protein. On that note, I have one of my favorite recipes for you, using potatoes.
Geary’s Lean-Body Potato Side Dish
Desired quantity of baby potatoes (I like to use this mixture I found recently at a health food store… it is a mixture of white, red, yellow, and purple baby potatoes)
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 or 2 onions
a couple cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 or 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil and/or coconut oil
a little salt and pepper to taste (I like using a sea salt instead of normal commercial salt)
Cut the baby potatoes into slightly smaller pieces and place in a steamer until soft all the way through. Slice up the peppers and onions into strips and add with the chopped garlic into a pan with the olive oil. Cook the peppers, onions, and garlic until tender, and then add the steamed baby potatoes. Stir it all together and serve. This is a delicious and healthy side dish that goes great with chicken or red meat.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little topic today about potatoes, healthy carbohydrates, glycemic index, and my killer healthy potato recipe idea!
If you enjoyed this article today, feel free to copy/paste this link and email to your friends and family that would be interested.
Certified Personal Trainer
Certified Nutrition Specialist
Mike is also the author of “The Truth About Six Pack Abs,” a no-nonsense guide to eating and working out properly for regular people. Click here to learn more.